GM-labeled foods hard to find in EU

The newly extended EU directive for labeling genetically modified foods has been in effect since April 2004. But contrary to expectations, very little has changed throughout most of Europe. Labeling requirements broadened significantly, but even so, consumers rarely find labels indicating the use of genetic engineering.

Producers: Avoiding labeling
Many consumers believe that GMO labels are meant to warn of health hazards. They feel “on the safe side” if they choose products without GMO labels. Often, labels are interpreted as warnings rather than simply as information about the application of genetic engineering.

With this often being the case, producers expect accurately labeled products containing GM ingredients to fail on the market. They expect that consumers will opt against them, even though they are essentially equivalent to competing “GM-free” products. In addition, environmental and consumer groups publicly denounce labeled products and place pressure on producers.

Anyone who places labels on their GM products risks losses in sales and damage to their image. In order to avoid this, many producers have changed the composition of their products: rapeseed oil (canola oil) may be used instead of soybean oil for producing margarine – soy lecithin may be replaced by chemical emulsifiers. Other producers pay a premium for soy with a written guarantee that GM content does not exceed the 0.9 percent threshold, thus allowing the producer to use soy and forgo the GM label.

Genetic engineering outside the scope of the labeling directive
But even supermarkets with no products labeled as GMOs are not free from all types of genetic engineering. Examples of foods and ingredients produced using GMOs, but not subject to labeling, include meat, milk, egg, and other animal products from animals fed GM feed, food enzymes produced using GM microorganisms, and additives, vitamins, and flavors.
The Organic & Non-GMO Report (August 2006).